Māori Wardens feel pressured to join Scientology
Māori wardens who distribute free drug booklets provided for and paid by the Church of Scientology claim they felt pressure to join the church.
Thomas Henry from the Mangere Māori Wardens told Native Affairs that wardens also felt that Scientologists forced their beliefs on them.
"Sometimes they can get very pushy, in regards to wanting Wardens to be involved with other kaupapa, but it doesn't fit our mahi," he said.
"The only stuff that fits our mahi is what they have given in resources with the drug free books and DVDs that we've been using."
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Henry was a keynote speaker at the opening of the new $16 million headquarters in Auckland in January.
Despite feeling pressured, he defended the Wardens' relationship with the church, saying they will continue to work with Scientologists as long as they have a clear understanding of their responsibilities.
"If we can't have that relationship around that then certainly we will go elsewhere to look for the resources that we're able to use in our communities. The interests that the Māori Wardens across NZ have is about creating a safer and a better place for our people to live without drugs."
But the church said they were surprised the wardens felt that way.
"We can be enthusiastic about who we are and what we're doing and some of our programs and maybe it got misinterpreted. Certainly we're not trying to push anybody into something they don't want to do," said Mike Ferriss, secretary for the NZ Church of Scientology.
He added that he was happy with the church's relationship with the wardens, and that they were a "community group that are very effective".
The church gave Native Affairs a look inside the church's purification centre.
The church's drug education program is a resource of booklets and DVDs. It highlights the dangers and side effects of drugs.
More than 250,000 booklets have been distributed across the country by the church and the Māori Wardens.